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PHUKET: Finally, after years and years of consideration and watching other neighboring countries benefit from attracting foreign residents for long-term resident stays, the Thai government has announced a long term (ten-year) visa for foreigners over the age of 50.

The intention is to promote Thailand as an international hub for medical services. As Thailand plans to develop itself into a ‘medical and wellness tourism’ center, this is seen to be a good start in that direction.

Applicants for this ten-year visa must have a monthly income of 100,000 baht or more than 3,000,000 baht in a Thai bank account (which cannot be withdrawn within the first year after receiving the visa). In addition to that, the applicant must have health insurance that provides a minimum of US$10,000 in annual coverage, including in-patient hospital stays. This visa will eventually replace the current one-year renewable visa for which the applicant must place 800,000 baht in a Thai bank account for a minimum of six months prior to visa application.

The proposed financial requirements will probably target the most affluent, as applicants cannot withdraw more than 50 per cent of those funds and they must prove that the funds withdrawn were spent in Thailand for services related to property, medical, school fees or any such related living expenses. The visa then allows the spouse of the applicant to apply for a Non-immigrant ‘O’ visa and for the children of the applicant who are under age 21 to apply for an education visa.

With the 10-year visa in place, Thailand can expect to draw more foreign residents to live in Thailand, and the targeted groups are from Denmark, Norway, Netherlands, Sweden, France, Finland, Italy, Germany, Switzerland, Australia, the United States, the United Kingdom, Japan and Canada. The application fee is 10,000 baht. The foreign residents are mainly expected to live in Chiang Mai, Chiang Rai, Chonburi, Phuket and Koh Samui.

This announcement will hopefully spur both local and foreign investors in the medical and wellness sectors, who will probably benefit the most from the implementation of this visa. This would also include those looking to create independent, active adult and assisted living communities. Independent active adult communities are dwelling homes or condominiums in a community where there are swimming pools, club houses, golf courses, spas, shops, hair dressers, medical care, shopping, restaurants, and transportation, all catering to residents who usually do not require any assistance for such day to day activities.

The criteria are somewhat the same for assisted living communities, where the substantial difference is additional care providers or more comprehensive medical care and attention.

However, don’t rush out to the nearest Thai embassy to apply for this ten-year visa, as the implementation date has not been announced and changes to the proposals may still take place.

Amy Koh is the sales manager of Engel & Voelkers Phuket. To contact Amy or for more information, visit engelvoelkers.com/en/phuket

— Amy Koh